War and Art: The Graffiti Art Movement in Syria
SOURCE: ATLANTIC COUNCIL
BY: RANA RIZIQ
The situation in Idlib remains unstable as airstrikes continue almost daily in this last remaining de-escalation zone in Syria. Locals protest on and off with the latest on September 6, 2019, to bring awareness to the airstrikes led predominately by Russian and Syrian regime forces with sporadic US forces targeting al-Qaeda affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).
Despite this unstable situation, life goes on in Idlib. A local Syrian civil society organization, Kesh Malek, is focused on supplying humanitarian aid and services to Syrians throughout Syria. It was started by a group of young Syrians in late 2011. The group called itself “Kesh Malek” meaning checkmate in Arabic to reference a chess move that removes the ‘king.’ It references the president of Syria in its mission in order “to get the Syrian Republic back.” The focus of Kesh Malek is awareness building and organizing advocacy campaigns.
One of its successful media campaigns this year is the Syria Banksy project. Named after the infamous and influential graffiti artist, Banksy known for his political tongue in cheek graffiti murals around the world highlight current events. The Syria Banksy project aims to amplify Syrian voices to the international stage and advocate for the values that originate from the Syrian revolution of freedom, dignity, and justice. The Syria Banksy campaign started in March 2019 to coincide with the eight-year anniversary of the Syrian Revolution as an effort to revitalize the catalyst of the revolution when young schoolkids left graffiti messages on a street in Daraa.
In this campaign, the graffiti artists are doctors, humanitarians, and media journalists. None of the civilians who paint the graffiti are willing to show their identity; in homage to Banksy himself as well as for their safety. Mostly they are people who desperately want to send a message to the world and to highlight the situation in Idlib and Syria. The graffiti is purposely written in English and referencing international events to target western audiences.
Wall Murals from March – June 2019
The Syria Banksy project is an ongoing campaign fraught with danger from continuous airstrikes. However, the Syrian youth are eager and determined to show that there are normal and modern civilians in Idlib. The goal is to shake up the international community away from the violent and apathetic portray of Syria to instead showcase commonalities with the rest of the world through art and humor.
This is part one of a three part video series focused on the Kesh Malek campaign.